A strong 8-1 majority of Supreme Court justices nixed a 1999 law banning videos that depict cruelty to animals on First Amendment grounds. The RTDNA called the decision a victory for broadcast news operations.
The law was intended to put an end to videos that depicted the maiming, torture and killing of animals, and was particularly aimed at videos of small animals being crushed to death by barefoot or high-heel-wearing women.
The law made it difficult to report on actual sports such as bullfighting, and made it impossible to film some documentaries that might have been intended to depict such cruelty in an effort to put an end to it.
Chief Justice John Roberts said that laws against animal cruelty were one thing; depicting it in a video another.
It was suggested that a more narrowly-targeted law might pass constitutional muster.
“This is a sensitive topic,” said RTDNA Chairman Mark Kraham. “But we’re pleased that the Supreme Court underscored the principle that, as Chief Justice Roberts states, ‘the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech does not extend only to categories of speech that survive an ad hoc balancing of relative social costs and benefits.’ The decision has preserved the ability of news organizations to accurately and completely bring animal cruelty to light through fair reporting.”